Research shows that if a lead is not followed up within the first five minutes, there is a 10X decrease in actually hearing back from the lead.
This is why sales development reps (SDRs), sometimes called lead development reps (LDRs), play such a critical role in any company’s sales process. Many companies rely on SDRs to establish the initial relationship and trust with a prospect. They are ultimately responsible for pushing qualified opportunities into the sales pipeline so the sales reps can focus on closing more deals.
This work is tedious, manual, and error-prone. Furthermore, it can take several months and many touch points to turn a lead into an opportunity.
Where the Process Stands
Currently, the process of qualifying leads for an SDR is very inefficient. 75% of time is spent chasing unqualified leads and 71% of leads are never pursued or given proper follow-up.
The role has become a balancing act of selling, dealing with objections, and qualifying leads. Therefore, reps are investing large amounts of time and energy on the viability of the opportunity. But, every lead that comes into the system needs to be engaged with, nurtured, and then assessed. Timely, personalized, and contextual response and follow up is critical when engaging each lead.
As a result, the only way companies can scale is by hiring additional reps to send more emails and make more calls. This solution is neither efficient or an improvement and could even be detrimental to your business since converting more leads might not occur, instead you have more reps calling unqualified leads to find the ones that fell through the cracks.
So what is the solution to ensure your sales qualification process becomes more efficient and effective?
The Future of Sales Automation
AI in sales is dramatically changing sales automation and will play a key role in lead capturing, nurturing, and qualification.
Automated two-way intelligent conversations can replace much of the SDRs manual work that was mentioned above. Instead of SDRs researching each lead and spending time following up, handling objections, and asking relevant questions to qualify them, automated and smart assistant software can do it for them. AI-driven bots will handle the tedious work, so reps can focus on more important tasks.
For example, a potential prospect asks to see a demo. According to the company sales playbook, more information is required to determine if it is worth the time to show a demo.
The AI email bot can reach out to the prospect, as if it were an SDR based on what the bot knows about the lead from a CRM system and inquire about the missing lead qualification details. The virtual SDR bot will analyze the response and decide whether the conversation with the lead should continue, end, or be sent back to nurturing.
Moreover, the bot can identify follow-up dates, if the prospect responds with an out of office reply, or saying contact me in six months, and reach out as appropriate. This process will continue until the lead is handed over to a real person to set up a demo and continue the nurturing process—no lead is left behind.
With machine learning, the lead qualification process can be optimized over time based on the response rates of the virtual assistant to the countless AI generated conversations, analytics on timing and the lead qualification criteria, and input from the reps. This allows human reps to focus on the highly qualified opportunities, while allowing companies to test various messages at scale to discover and refine the optimal path to qualification.
Furthermore, the AI can refine each path based on the responses and CRM data to ensure a highly personalized conversation. Using AI for email marketing, each conversation can be tailored for each lead by adjusting the timing, language used, and the content of the conversation.
An AI-Led Strategy
Automated lead qualification using an AI-driven strategy maximizing your marketing ROI (return on investment) and maximize your revenue from existing opportunities, while reducing overall costs. Conversational AI technology enables sales teams to generate more pipeline and revenue per rep, work every lead, remove repetitive, error-prone tasks, and focus on the best opportunities—like a virtual assistant to your sales and marketing teams.
Ilan Kasan is co-founder and CEO of Exceed.ai, a conversational marketing and sales automation platform enabling sales teams to scale and sell more.